It’s a familiar routine in conference planning: you announce a call for papers with one deadline, and as it approaches, you end up extending it by a few days or a week due to “popular request.” This year, your New Year’s resolution could be to get all of your presenters’ abstracts or papers in on time. With a few high impact changes, it’s possible to put the extended abstract submission deadline routine at the bottom of the junk drawer with those old Motorola RAZR chargers.
Don’t Leave Room For Interpretation
The first and easiest step is to ask yourself how clear you’re being on strict deadlines. Are they bold and printed in large text? Have you placed them on the website, in all your marketing emails, and in all of your downloadable .pdfs, brochures, and documents? It helps if you put your abstract submission deadline everywhere, loud and clear. Also:
- Word it with strength and clarity. Be upfront that it’s not a soft date. “This deadline is firm and will not be extended,” tells readers that you mean business—but you’ll have to follow through for it to mean anything.
- Try putting deadlines in red text. Marketers have been doing this for a long time, as red creates urgency, raises blood pressure, and stands out from the rest of your message. Readers will take note.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. It’s not enough to say it once in the middle of a body of text. Put your deadline in a sidebar, in a drop quote, and in one of the final lines.
Incentivize Early Submission
It’s nerve-wracking to wait for the presenter hockey stick right before your abstract submission deadline date. You end up wondering if you’ll get enough quality proposals in the closing days—which is often the source of pressure to extend the deadline.
Some special incentive (a fee waiver, voucher, access to a VIP panel, discount on accommodations, etc.) can be the push that motivates presenters to stay on their game and get their proposal in early. You’ll know best what would be most attractive to your industry or topic, so cater an incentive that would be valuable to your audience.
Learn From User Analytics
It’s possible that you haven’t had any trouble stirring interest, or even action, but have actually been losing presenters due to pain points in the completion process. Your abstract submission platform might be able to track the number of people who begin a proposal but never finish it. This could lead you to insights on stages of your process that are difficult or confusing, and inadvertently dissuade applicants from completing their submissions. Late abstract reviewers often have the same issue.
Data collection and user analytics are the best way to review your process for speedbumps that can be smoothed into a more comfortable ride. The OpenWater software, for example, has many data collection functions to show you how users are interacting with your abstract submission forms and web portals.
Automate Personalized Reminders
Try tiering your abstract submission process into two separate deadlines. The first one should be incredibly easy—perhaps only four fields:
- Email address
- Topic cluster
- Affiliation (company, organization, association, etc.)
This encourages speakers to take that first step because it only takes a few seconds. On top of that, you get the contact info you need to pepper prospective presenters with custom reminders leading up to the abstract submission deadline. OpenWater’s submission software can automate email prompts to all of the contacts in an integrated CRM database (or to relevant segments with different, targeted email templates) so that they’ll complete their more detailed submissions on time.
The lack of an integrated communications channel is a major shortfall of relying on Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets to handle the process of logging abstract submissions. Consider moving over to a fully integrated abstract management system with robust integrations that can handle the whole process, from calls for papers to triaging communications to review and final selection.